Silverpop - Gmail’s New Visual Promotions Tab: Quick Observations and Tips for Email Marketers
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Gmail’s New Visual Promotions Tab: Quick Observations and Tips for Email Marketers

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by: Darryl Bolduc (@darrylbolduc)
09 April 2014

Recently I wrote a blog about how simplified email imagery can help you stand out. This is truer than ever given Google’s latest curveball: Gmail Visual Promotions Tab — Grid View, which is now available on a beta basis for Gmail subscribers.

If you haven’t seen it, you should definitely take a look at how your marketing emails will look from the “Grid” view. In contrast to when “Tabs” rolled out, the latest Gmail enhancement doesn’t move your emails around in the Inbox, but rather transforms the inbox into a visual bonanza of creatively featured images.

Here’s how the new Grid View looks with my Gmail Promotions Tab:

Gmail Promotions Visual Grid Example


My colleague Loren McDonald has coined the phrase “images are the new subject line,” and it’s so true. This feature is a game changer for email. Instead of being drawn in from a few words and a brand’s name, you can now be mesmerized by heroic branded content topped off with an approved logo along with a killer complementary subject line. The Gmail Visual Promotions Tab also shifts the focus from preheader text to these new key elements.

You may be asking yourself, “So how do I make my emails shine in this new Grid View?” Here are some observations:

Gmail Promotions Visual Grid template1) Your “Featured image” will be the focal point within the Grid View. It must be at least 580 pixels by 400 pixels in size and indicated as such within your HTML code to be picked up by Google. The Google Developers Site has these specifications and more on formatting for the Grid.

2) The subject line is super-important in the Grid View. It’s so closely positioned to the featured image that it should be considered complementary — I might even suggest dynamically delivering the subject line for the Gmail experience when all is said and done.

3) The “Sender name” appears above the subject line. It will be based on the friendly “From” name within your sending platform. 

4) The “Sender image” is based on configuring a verified Google+ page. The logo image can be indicated by adding some code to your page, also referenced on the Google Developers Site.

Assuming it sticks, navigating the Grid View will be critical to marketers’ Gmail success, so you’ll need to think about how to design this grid view experience so that the image shown and the subject line work well together, asking questions like:

  • If you at look the different combinations of images, do the subject lines support and expand on the image? Or is it something completely different?
  • Should a CTA be part of that image?
  • How will your reader get the most out of this newly designated premium placement? (Notice the lack of a brand logo in some of the above examples.)

Please note that Grid View is currently in beta (as of April 9) and not available to all Gmail users. And even when it’s turned on for everyone, users will still have the option to toggle back to the traditional email inbox view. In other words, even if you have a high percentage of Gmail subscribers, only a portion will see messages this way. Still, I’d speculate this might have a long-term impact on the way we think about email marketing.

So how did Google go from creating mass disdain for the Promotions Tab to serving up this new state of marketing bliss? I’d speculate that Google Sponsored Promotions and Google+ social properties have something to do with developing a better mousetrap for advertisers. I’d further speculate that this turnaround will drive a brand’s attention back to the Promotions Tab, maybe even calling for an “Add Me to Your Grid” campaign.

Even though there are many unknowns outside of this beta period, this is a good time to reexamine the way you approach constructing marketing emails. After all, the impact of your brand being shown with no image and a letter in place of a logo could be much more harmful than a poorly received subject line or headline that just doesn’t pop.

So, what are your initial thoughts and questions regarding Gmail’s New Visual Promotions Tab? Share your thoughts on the “Grid View” below.

Industry References:

1) Google Developers Site

2) Litmus, Gmail Does It Again: The New Promotions Tab

3) Live Intent, “Google Introduces ‘Grid View’ to Gmail Promotions Tab

4) ClickZ, “Tips for Designing E-mail for Google’s New Promotions Tab Grid View

More Silverpop Marketing References:

1) Ebook: “15 Post-Purchase Emails That Build Loyalty and Drive Revenue”

2) Video: “Adding ‘White Space’ to Your Email Program

3) Blog: “Simple Flat UI: Using Design Simplicity to Make Your Emails Stand Out


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